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Souls' Music in the Park : Christian choirs and singers will take part in the annual concert series at Magic Mountain that, of course, also includes secular performers.


If amusement parks don't strike you as particularly spiritual locales, perhaps you require some enlightenment. Christian singers and gospel choirs have frequently graced the stage at Knott's Berry Farm since the early 1970s. Disneyland has also presented dozens of such acts over the years. In fact, it was during a series of shows at the Magic Kingdom--in 1973--that gospel star Al Green found religion.

"I can't explain it, but I woke up rejoicing and was a changed man," said Green, a pop singer at that time. He went gospel thereafter.

Now, Six Flags Magic Mountain is establishing a Christian music tradition of its own. The Valencia park--better known for scaring the hell out of people with its roller coasters--will offer four events in the spring and fall, marking its third year of bringing inspirational vocals and a few bluesy organ riffs to the foothills of the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Hallelujah Jubilee--which features contemporary Christian acts such as Bryan Duncan and Susan Ashton--will take place April 2 and again Oct. 1.

National singers and local church choirs will visit--performing, oddly enough, from the Batman show stage--for the Gospel Celebrations May 8 and Oct. 9.

These performances are part of the park's annual concert series, which began with an altogether different brand of music.

A Lighter Shade of Brown, the Latino rap group that scored a recent hit with "Homies," opened the season last Saturday. Grammy nominees Kris Kross bring their hip-hop this Saturday.

In April, Paul Rodriguez and Bobcat Goldthwait will add their stand-up comedy to a roster of rock 'n' roll that includes Gene Loves Jezebel and Information Society.

But, when it comes to drawing crowds, the big-name acts have nothing on old-fashioned religion.

"The Christian and the gospel singers have a big following," said Eileen Harrell, an amusement park spokeswoman. "They are among our most popular events."

'Very, very exciting crowd," said Mitchell Jones of Commissioned, a Detroit gospel group that sang at the amusement park last year. "The people were very receptive and they participated. It was a lot of fun."

Among this year's performers will be the choir from the First AME Church in South-Central Los Angeles, which will travel to Valencia for the May gospel gathering.

Joe Westmoreland, the church's minister of music, said he wasn't the least surprised to get an invitation from an amusement park.

Where better for Christian music? Imagine all the hurried prayers mumbled each day by roller-coaster riders. And if the park's Flashback ride doesn't put the fear of God in you, nothing will.

WHERE AND WHEN Location: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Magic Mountain Parkway exit of the Golden State Freeway, Valencia.

Hours: Open weekends and holidays through April 2. Open daily during spring break, April 3 to 18. The park opens at 10 a.m.; closing times vary. $5 parking.

Price: $26, $15 for children shorter than 48 inches and $17 for senior citizens over 55. There is an additional admission to some concerts.

Call: (805) 255-4111 or (818) 367-5965.

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